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The Secret Garden (2020)

Review: written June 2021

Engaging new version of the classic story

The Secret Garden (2020)

It’s 1947, and young girl Mary has been orphaned by cholera in India. She is sent to stay at the house of her aloof Uncle (Colin Firth) in Yorkshire. There, she initially struggles, but through new friendships and the discovery of a garden which has a seemingly magical effect on those who enter, she begins to find herself and a way to get over her loss.

Some truly spirited performances, charming storytelling and a higher soupcon of magic than we might be used to in the story, make this a faithful and yet new spin on the classic story. I was won over by the acting, the cinematography and the story which stands the test of time. If it lacked a truly emotional punch, that’s probably because the characters all start so unlikeable we don’t get enough time to truly ‘like’ them as they go through their transformation. The garden itself is magical in every sense – an extraordinary combination of cultivated beauty, wild and rugged milieus and extraordinary colour pallettes. In this version, the garden is occasionally digitally enhanced, as if to enhance the idea the garden is in fact magical – but not enough to lose the sense that the power the garden has, is only what the children’s imagination give it. Everything, in fact is heightened – the garden is grand beyond reason, the house enormous given it is in the middle of nowhere – we are left to join the dots that we are seeing this world through children’s eyes. The film fails to reach the classic status of predecessors through the use of the adult characters – Colin Firth is barely in the movie for a few minutes, so any redemption feels somewhat empty, and Julie Walters plays a fearsome housekeeper – but that is where her character begins and ends.

Not classic then, but a suitably nostalgic return to a familiar story.

The Secret Garden (2020)

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